Students needing remedial courses in math and English were on the increase again last year at South Dakota’s public universities after several years of improvement, according to a report delivered Wednesday to the South Dakota Board of Regents.
...Twenty-nine percent of the 2,736 university freshman students who graduated high school in 2009 were placed in at least one remedial course because their ACT English scores were below 18 or their ACT math scores were below 20.
...The numbers of students needing one or both of the remedial courses had gradually declined earlier this decade, reaching lows in 2007 of 26 percent overall, nine percent in English and 21 percent in math.
They went back up across the board for 2008 and again in 2009 [Bob Mercer, "More Frosh Need Remedial Courses at State's Colleges," Pierre Capital Journal, 2010.10.15].
Now the good news:
A state-funded merit scholarship supports nearly 350 more South Dakota college freshmen this fall than when the program first started in 2004. Preliminary data report a total of 1,176 incoming freshmen received the Opportunity Scholarship this fall, a 42 percent increase since the first 828 students entered six years ago.
...The 1,176 new Opportunity Scholarship recipients this fall surpasses the all-time high of 1,159 previously set in 2008 ["More Students Qualifying for Opportunity Scholarship," South Dakota state press release, 2010.10.12].
Hmm... more students are successfully completing the rigorous college-prep curriculum required to win the Opportunity Scholarship, yet a large percentage of students, most of them from the very same high South Dakota schools cranking out those high achievers, don't know enough to pass freshman comp and algebra.
What's going on here? Aren't our high schools teaching kids the basic grammar, composition, and math skills they need to survive their 101s at the U? Are we inflating grades to make the kids feel good... and keep them eligible for the basketball team? Are the universities letting kids in who aren't college-ready, just to grab more tuition dollars?
Readers, your intellectual efforts to resolve this apparent contradiction are welcome!